The genre of fantasy tends to focus on heroic and daring deeds performed by huge muscled warriors, clever and powerful wizards or sorcerers, and more than a few humble farm boys who have greatness thrust upon them. That's all well and good, but this list is intended to show that it's not all about the men. There are women in the fantasy genre as well, and they're not always there to be rescued from dragons and whatnot. Plenty of them are, in fact, here to kick some ass, and maybe do some rescuing of their own.
So move aside, fantastical sausage-fest, and let these ladies and their awesomeness shine through. Here is a list of 10 badass women from fantasy literature. I'm not saying that these are the only badass women in fantasy, or even the most badass women -- feel free to mention any that I've missed in the comments, so that Topless Robot can perhaps showcase them in Round Two!
10) Princess Cimorene, The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede
As the seventh daughter of the King of Linderwall, a peaceful and prosperous kingdom, Cimorene's future was assured. She was instructed in all the things that princesses normally learn - etiquette, dancing, embroidery - all of which would help her marry a handsome prince and live happily ever after. It's what every princess dreams of, right? Wrong. When Cimorene decides she's had enough of learning to be a princess, she decides to leave the kingdom and heads for dragon country. She becomes the princess of the dragon Kazul, where she gets to employ all of the skills that her parents deemed unnecessary for princessing - fencing, cooking, fluency in Latin, etc. She tangles with wizards, witches, other dragons, and does her best to discourage all of the knights and princes that have been dispatched to rescue her.
9) The White Witch, The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
Jadis the White Witchwas unleashed upon Narnia by Digory Kirke when he and his friend Polly were exploring the Wood between the Worlds. When they find themselves in Charn, a lifeless world, Digory rings a magic bell and awakens Jadis, who had used a Deplorable Word on Charn just to avoid losing a battle to her sister. Jadis wreaks havoc on Earth before finding her way to Narnia, where she eats the fruit of Everlasting Life and becomes even more powerful. By the time the Pevensies step through the wardrobe years later, Jadis the White Witch has Narnia trapped in an endless winter, and its citizens turned against each other and terrified into obedience by her ability to turn them to stone. When Jadis claims her right kill Edmund for being a traitor, Aslan the Lion gives himself up in his stead. Jadis seizes her chance to kill her old enemy once and for all, and makes a party out of it - her minions cut Aslan's hair and bind him to the Stone Table, where she delivers the killing blow. How was she to know it wouldn't take? In her defense, it's hard to win against Jesus metaphors.
8) Hermione Granger, the Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
Anyone who doesn't think that knowledge is power hasn't met Hermione Granger. Harry Potter might be the "chosen one", but it's Hermione who's always saving the day when The Boy Who Lived and his Weasley sidekick get in over their heads. Along with being a more-than-competent witch, Hermione's go-to resource is the Hogwarts school library and the massive amount of magical knowledge and history she's managed to accumulate. Hermione's passion for learning is no joke - how many other people would willingly take three classes at the same time? Along with her intelligence, Hermione boasts a strong sense of social justice, as shown by her efforts to get S.P.E.W. up and running (the Society for the Promotion of Elfish Welfare), even though house-elves in general don't typically appreciate her help.
7) Harry Crewe, The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley
Recently orphaned, Harry (born Angharad, but who would want to go by that all the time?) joins her brother Richard in Istan. Her arrival in that military outpost coincides with a visit from King Corlath, leader of the hill folk that still occupy the plains around the base. Corlath has come to warn the Outlanders of impending war from the demon-led tribes from the North, which fails to impress Istan's commander. Corlath is inspired by his magical intuition to kidnap Harry on his way out, but he and his people treat her as an honored guest. She's even instructed in the history, language, culture, and even as a warrior. She discovers her strange connection to Lady Aerin, called Dragon Slayer and revered by the people of the hills, and eventually becomes the first Laprun (King's rider) and is awarded Gonturan, the blue sword that belonged to Aerin.
6) Meliara Astiar, Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith
After their estate is taxed into poverty, Meliara and her brother Bran attempt to lead their people, and the people of other estates, against the crown in revolution. Unfortunately, having right on your side isn't enough to take a country's hearts and minds by storm if you have no resources, numbers, or firepower to back it up. Still, Mel and her people fought valiantly until she was captured and brought before the king, who ordered her execution. Covert sympathizers within the Court smuggled her out of the dungeons, and Mel led almost the entire army on a long chase through the kingdom (all of this in spite of her badly injured foot, which she almost lost). The war isn't won after the current king is overthrown, however - a new, better king must be chosen, and that can't be done with sword and spear. Mel sets her weapons aside, picks up her fan, and braves the intrigue and politics at Court to supervise the search for the new ruling family. Little does she know that the battle is far from over.
5) Eowyn, The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
The niece of King Theoden of Rohan, Eowyn endured a lot of loss and heartache with the deaths of her and Eomer's parents, her cousin Theodred, and with having to watch Grima Wormtongue poison her uncle with destructive and traitorous thoughts. To make matters worse, Wormtongue was not shy about expressing his desire for her. When Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli and Gandalf the White came to Rohan and healed Theoden of Grima's poisonous influence, Eowyn longed to achieve glory by accompanying them to battle. She was told that as a woman, she must serve as a protector of her people. "Screw that," she thought, and disguised herself as a man to ride her horse Windfola to the Pelennor Fields with the rest of the Rohirrim. She brought Merry with her, who had also been left behind. There, she faced off with the Witchking of Angmar, who had just felled King Theoden and taunted her that no man may slay him. Eowyn opened a can of whoop-ass on the Witchking's steed, and thrust her sword into the Nazgul's head after Merry stabbed him in the knee.
4) Polgara the Sorceress, The Belgariad and The Mallorean by David & Leigh Eddings
One of only two female disciples of the god Aldur, Polgara the Sorceress is the daughter of Belgarath, Aldur's first disciple. Along with great power comes long life, which are two things that sound great to those who don't possess either. Polgara is thousands of years old, and in that time has fulfilled the duty that was laid upon her by Necessity. She guarded the descendants of her sister and Riva Iron-grip, generation after generation, watching her distant relatives grow old and die until Garion, wielder of the Orb, was finally born. During that time she also helped her father and the rest of the disciples shape the course of history, preparing for the ultimate meeting between Garion and the mad god Torak. Torak even wanted to possess her as his eternal bride, but fortunately the Orb put a stop to that. Like her father, Polgara is able to change her shape when she needs to, usually taking the form of a snowy owl.
3) Arya Stark, A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin
One of the many children of the Stark family, Arya is a tough, tomboy-ish girl - worlds apart from her elegant and stupid (in Arya's words) sister Sansa -- who is often mistaken for a boy, something that's saved her life on more than one occasion. She doesn't lack for guts, such as when she hit the crown prince Joffrey in the head with a cudgel in order to save a playmate (although it was a rather poor decision in the end). Her father Ned allowed her to train with the Braavosi swordsman by Syrio Forel, which [GAME OF THRONES AND BEYOND SPOILERS START HERE] allowed her to escape King's Landing when Joffrey executed her father. Since then, Arya's life has been spectacularly rough, whether on the run in the wilds, disguising herself as a slave to one of the most brutal men in Westeros, or a prisoner of Sandor Clegane, the Hound. Even at her young age, she's had to kill more than a couple of people to survive (and a few out of vengeance, too). Currently, she's training with the Faceless Men of Braavos to basically become a magic assassin.
2) Keladry of Mindelan, Protector of the Small by Tamora Pierce
It has to be said that this list could almost be totally made up of Tamora Pierce's awesome heroines. That's as may be, but Keladry of Mindelan is no second choice. After Alanna the Lioness paved the way for female pages to train openly for knighthood, years later Kel was the first girl to do so. Her time as a page was full of prejudice, injustice and vicious hazing, but she won her knighthood in spite of that and was the first woman in hundreds of years to claim a distaff shield. Kel has no magical gifts or favor from the gods, but her skill in weaponry, her cool head and her knack for being a good commander allow her to do what she became a knight to do - to protect the small and the weak from those that would prey on them. Kel is even tasked by the Chamber of the Ordeal (an ancient and mysterious room that all would-be knights must face) to find and stop the maker of a great evil, one that could make the difference between victory and defeat for the kindgom of Tortall.
1) Granny Esmerelda Weatherwax, Discworld by Terry Pratchett
One of the witches of Lancre, Granny Weatherwax has seen and done a lot in her long life. People step lightly around Granny, except for maybe her friend and fellow witch of many years, Nanny Ogg. Granny is not a nice person. Don't misunderstand - she is a good person. After her sister Lily ran away when they were growing up, she had to be the good one. But as a witch, it's her job to stand on the edge, on the line where darkness meets the light, and she made the decision to face the light. As a witch, she makes the choices in answer to questions that are never asked aloud. As a witch, she protects people against forces or powers that try to treat them as things. Though it might be hard to catch Granny doing what anyone would call actual witchcraft, power is what people believe - the "how" doesn't really matter. But just because Granny doesn't always use real power doesn't mean she has none. Granny's quite skilled at what she calls "headology" - she was even able to influence a coven of vampires to crave tea instead of human blood - and "borrowing", which once allowed her to ride an entire swarm of bees with her mind. Don't be alarmed if you come across her when she's "out". She'll be holding a card that reads "I ain'tnt dead."